Basketball Picks Daily Fantasy Expert Advice
Daily Fantasy NBA Basketball Picks for FanDuel and DraftKings - 4/17/16 Opening Round
Hey all! James here, with our 2nd breakdown of the first round of the NBA playoffs - daily fantasy basketball edition. If you're a regular DFSR reader, you're going to notice that our daily playoff basketball articles are a bit different than our regular season articles. There are a few reasons for this. First of all, we're going to see a LOT of repeat picks here. If Jonas Valanciunas was a good play against the Pacers in game 1 (and he was - booya!). Second, it probably makes sense to go a little deeper on these short (but consistent) slates - so we'll go game by game instead of position by position.
Another quick note - we probably won't do updates articles unless there actually ARE updates on a given day. So if you want to talk hoops, comment on this article! Enjoy!
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Detroit Pistons at Cleveland Cavaliers
On the surface, we'd like to be pretty cautious about recommending players from 1-8 match-ups in the playoffs. With a lot of teams going that are pretty evenly matched, why bother? I'm going to suggest this one is an exception. The Pistons took 3 of 4 from the Cavs this season (though the last one was without the starters), and should have the ability to at least stay in this one. Our lineup optimizer projects all starters on both sides of this game to get more than their season totals of minutes, making it one of the more stackable games on the slate.
LeBron James - FD 10500 DK 10000
Opponent - DET
FD Proj. Pts - 50.2 DK Proj. Pts - 52.2
Early returns on the optimizer have LeBron basically everywhere, and it makes sense. It's a day without many expensive plays, and there's a significant chance that we see LeBron in God mode today. In the interest of full disclosure, though, LeBron was less than amazing in his three games against the Pistons this season. It's a small sample, but he turned the ball over quite a bit and didn't shoot well, either. Still, I'm trusting the end of season body of work over the small sample size (spread from November to March), and expecting that we see LeBron's best here.
Kyrie Irving - FD 7500 DK 7400
Opponent - DET
FD Proj. Pts - 36.72 DK Proj. Pts - 38.82
Kevin Love - FD 7100 DK 7000
Opponent - DET
FD Proj. Pts - 37.57 DK Proj. Pts - 40.21
I'm lumping these two together for a fairly simple reason - they're both underpriced relative to what they should do on playoff level minutes. Both Kyrie and Love played wildly erratic minutes down the stretch thanks to the Cavs' comfortable hold on the 1 seed, and their prices across the daily fantasy basketball industry declined as a result. Well, they'll play the full boat today, and I like there relative situations.
Kyrie will be up against Reggie Jackson, who's a less than stellar defender when he's right, and he's dealing with an abdominal strain that caused the Pistons to hold him out in the final two games of the regular season. Love, meanwhile, paid 5x or better on these prices in each of the Cavs' games against Detroit this season, and I don't see why that won't continue here.
Kentavious Caldwell-Pope - FD 5200 DK 4700
Opponent - CLE
FD Proj. Pts - 26.79 DK Proj. Pts - 29.31
KCP's price dwindled from when he was putting up big nights on the regular, and for good reason. He stopped shooting 16 times a game, and the offense was primarily running elsewhere. And you know what? he was still a high floor option from night to night. Of particular interest here is KCP's success against the Cavs this season - he shot 20/36 from the field against them in 3 games, and the Cavs' lack of a solid perimeter defender left Caldwell-Pope open more than the Cavs would have liked. I think he's a very solid double-up play today.
Reggie Jackson - FD 6500 DK 6300
Opponent - CLE
FD Proj. Pts - 33.77 DK Proj. Pts - 35.08
An upside play that could pay off huge in big tournaments today. The Pistons were pretty cautious with Jackson's minutes during the regular season, but reports are the he'll be unchained during the playoffs. He's capable of a monster game in the right match-up, and Kyrie Irving has never been known for his defensive prowess. The big question, though, is obviously his health. I can't recommend him in good conscience for 50/50s and double-ups, but I'm prepared to roll with him in big tourneys.
Charlotte Hornets at the Miami Heat
In their four match-ups this year, the Hornets and Heat were separated by just 8 total points. Both teams are relatively healthy (this side of Chris Bosh), and are as likely as anyone to play their starters more minutes in the playoffs than they had been. There's just a few problems. Both teams played bottom 10 PACEs this season, and both were in the top 10 in terms of defensive efficiency. Since both teams are relatively healthy and played their starters down the stretch, there isn't a lot of DFS value to be had here.
The one major question mark for me is Nic Batum. He's swearing up and down that he'll play, but I wouldn't be surprised if he played with limited effectiveness, or limited minutes. I don't think it will impact my strategy for this game, but I'll have my eye on Jeremy Lin in case Charlotte decides to unleash him.
Dwyane Wade - FD 7500 DK 6500
Opponent - CHA
FD Proj. Pts - 34.92 DK Proj. Pts - 35.46
Wade's production tailed off dramatically as the Heat started battling simply for seeding, but don't think for a second that he's not going to come out gunning in this game. Now let's be straight up about this - Nic Batum is a seriously tough defender. But this has all the feeling of one of those games where Wade tries to get his regardless of what the defense throws at him. He's a terrific play on DraftKings in any format, but I'm scared enough here that I'm only playing him in tournaments on FanDuel.
Hassan Whiteside - FD 8700 DK 8700
Opponent - CHA
FD Proj. Pts - 39.49 DK Proj. Pts - 40.16
I've got other plans at center today, but I'd be remiss to not mention the fact that Hassan Whiteside could literally kill the Charlotte front court today. None of them are really known for their defense or contested rebounding, and Whiteside's been a kettle ready to boil over all season. I have a feeling Spoelstra is finally ready to turn him loose, and anything from 32-38 minutes seems in play here. I'm projecting him relatively conservatively because we simply haven't seen him play big minutes yet, but don't be shocked if you see him atop tournament leaderboards today.
Courtney Lee - FD 4000 DK 3800
Opponent - MIA
FD Proj. Pts - 20.89 DK Proj. Pts - 22.17
Are we excited yet? Courtney Lee is showing up in some optimal lineups today for two basic reasons - he's cheap, and he plays a lot of minutes. We have him projected for a relatively conservative 33 minutes (he could play as many as 38 with Batum's questionable health), and still like him for 5x or better on his current prices. The major driver of this ranking is who should be covering him - Joe Johnson. With Wade likely trailing Batum (or Walker), Lee should be chased by either Dragic or Hapless Joe. It's a tough day for shooting guards, and I'm a buyer.
The interesting upside play: Al Jeff has been dominant on a points per minute basis recently, and Charlotte could really mix things up by playing him his biggest minutes of the season. There's nothing left to save him for, and it wouldn't shock me to see him play 30+ minutes in a game or more this series.
Memphis Grizzles at the San Antonio Spurs
YUCK! Yuck. This is the most lopsided playoff match-up of my lifetime, and I hardly know what to make of it. The big question here is: how many minutes are these guys going to play? Is Memphis going to roll its starters out there for their full minutes when they're down by 30 every game? Is San Antonio going to leave Kawhi out there for high 30s minutes, or is Pop going to treat this like the 2nd half of a back to back in January? A lot of DFS fortunes will hinge on what happens here, and the uncertainty of it has me more than a little bit spooked. In spite of some juicy match-ups for the Spurs in particular, I'm fairly likely to steer clear for a game here if I can.
Kawhi Leonard - FD 8900 DK 8500
Opponent - MEM
FD Proj. Pts - 42.6 DK Proj. Pts - 44.42
I put Kawhi atop this list because Pop seems to be content to let his young star play big minutes a lot more readily than he is his aging stars. Leonard played 38-40 minutes in 4 of the Spurs last 6 games in spite of the fact that they were essentially playing for nothing, and while this series looks for all the world like a foregone conclusion, I can imagine the Spurs will at least want to get a solid lead before they start any egregious resting practices. The shame for Kawhi here is that he draws one of the Grizzlies few remaining competent defenders in Matt Barnes, but Leonard's on a level right now to where that shouldn't matter a whole heck of a lot.
Tony Parker - FD 5000 DK 4200
Opponent - MEM
FD Proj. Pts - 23.81 DK Proj. Pts - 24.47
Parker is more of an interesting upside play to me, but there's upside here nonetheless. Parker's been held under 30 minutes for most of this season, but one has to believe that Pop will stretch him out in the playoffs at least a little bit. The key factor I'll be evaluating in this game is who guards him. If the Grizz stick Tony Allen on him, I'd expect the Spurs will just let everybody else score all the points. But if he draws one of the lousy point guards Memphis is playing right now, Parker could absolutely explode. I don't trust it for a handful of reasons (the minutes and the defensive matchup), but this could be a huge game.
I hate everybody on Memphis.
Not personally, just for daily fantasy purposes today. How are you supposed to project their minutes? If there's one wild card for me, it's JaMychal Green. If the Grizzlies are in trouble, he could see extended minutes and have outsized production against less-defensively minded backups like David West. But if you trust any of these guys, you might be in for a world of pain.
Portland Trail Blazers at the Los Angeles Clippers
My favorite first round match-up. Two of the league's best point guards. The league's current "next big thing" darling against the team that pundits believe "simply needs to be broken up." Two high profile, above the rim big men against a group of cast offs and role players. And the looming possibility of hack-a-DeAndre ruining nearly everything. Some terrific plays here, so let's have a look, shall we?
Chris Paul - FD 9500 DK 9000
Opponent - POR
FD Proj. Pts - 49.92 DK Proj. Pts - 52.06
So, so juicy. The Clips have guarded Paul's minutes with a chastity belt for the last month+ of the regular season - he hadn't played more than 35 minutes in any game since March 9th. But they've shown that they are more than willing to put him out there for high 30s and even low 40s minutes in the playoffs (he played 40+ 3 times in their epic Spurs series), and you had better believe that Doc isn't going down without his best player in this one. While Lillard has improved his defense somewhat this season, he can't handle a full throttle Paul. I won't have any cash game lineups without CP3 today, and I don't suspect many people will.
Blake Griffin - FD 9100 DK 7600
Opponent - POR
FD Proj. Pts - 44.06 DK Proj. Pts - 44.73
The biggest daily fantasy basketball question mark of the day, and it isn't really that close. Yes, Griffin didn't play that many minutes at the end of the regular season. And yes, his situation in LA is one of the most bizarre in the NBA right now. It's easy to forget, though, that he was regularly topping 40 minutes a game in last year's playoffs as well - and putting up serious numbers in very tough match-ups. The Trail Blazers are no such tough match-up. Ed Davis is a competent defender, but he'll only be out there for 20ish minutes in all likelihood. That leaves a rotation cast of guys either too small (Aminu) or too slow (Plumlee) to cover him. This could be a truly monster performance. Or it could be a dud. But I'm betting on monster.
Most of the Clippers starters, frankly: Just because their minutes were jerked around so much at the end of the season. Redick is likely playing 30+ here, and would be a great play. DeAndre should dominate the boards and play a bunch of minutes. Heck, I even like Jeff Green on some level here.
Mason Plumlee - FD 5600 DK 4800
Opponent - LAC
FD Proj. Pts - 32.15 DK Proj. Pts - 32.62
The Trail Blazers have a few great plays of their own today, including my personal favorite - Mason Plumlee. The Blazers were playing to avoid the Thunder in the last week of the season, and if the way they handled their stars is any indication, they were playing something like their playoff lineups. And that included healthy doses of Plumlee. He scored 33+ fantasy points in 3 of his last 4 games, and did his usual fantasy point per minute in the process. DeAndre has always been overrated from a defensive perspective for fantasy purposes, and Plumlee is my choice at center today in any format.
Damian Lillard - FD 8500 DK 8600
Opponent - LAC
FD Proj. Pts - 41.94 DK Proj. Pts - 45.11
One of the three guys I'll consider for 50/50s today, Lillard will be shouldering an offensive load that few others will be in the first round of the playoffs. His performances were a mixed bag against the Clippers this season, but he did put up a 20/4/7 and a 20/7/9/2/1 game in 2 of their 4 meetings. I'll fully disclose that I far prefer Paul in this game, but given some of the uncertainty around the other point guard options today, I can very much seeing rolling Lillard out there if I'm looking for a high floor.
So yeah, basketball season! And we've got some goodies you can take with you. At the end of the post, we have our NBA eBook that you really ought to check out before setting even a single daily fantasy NBA lineup. It's free, below.